DUI Charges Enhanced for Drunk Drivers with Child Passengers

DUI laws in Illinois are governed by the complex statutes that make up the Illinois Compiled Statutes. A driver’s other conduct, such as drug possession or weapons violations, can be charged under other Illinois criminal statutes. Sometimes a DUI charge can be combined with felony crimes or misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances of the individual case. One case that often arises is when a drunk driver transports his or her young son or daughter in the vehicle. In these cases, both DUI laws and other criminal laws may apply.

A Recent Example

A recent case illustrates the circumstances under which a driver might be charged under both DUI laws and other criminal laws for driving or operating a vehicle with a young child passenger. Sj-r.com reported in late September that a Springfield, Illinois man was charged with both DUI and endangering a child after police found him asleep in his vehicle. The officers came upon 24-year-old Michael Lightfoot at about 8:00pm that evening, passed out at the wheel of his parked car. Mr. Lightfoot’s 4-year-old son was in the car at the time and was later taken care of by family members. Mr. Lightfoot was allegedly too drunk to perform a sobriety test and smelled strongly of alcohol. Apparently Mr. Lightfoot had a previous DUI conviction and was driving on a suspended license.

Illinois Child Endangerment Laws

Multiple violations of Illinois child endangerment law are serious felony crimes, as are violations that result in a child’s death. Under 720 ILCS 5/12C-5, it is a crime for an adult to knowingly cause or permit the life or health of a child under the age of 18-years-old to be endangered, or to cause or permit a child to be placed in circumstances that endanger his or her life. Under the statute, child endangerment also includes the crime of leaving a child under 6-years-old unattended in a vehicle. For the purposes of the statute, unattended can mean either that the child is not accompanied by another person over the age of 14, or that the child is accompanied by a person over 14 years old, but is out of sight of that person.

A violation of the child endangerment law is a Class A misdemeanor. However, a subsequent violation of the statute is a Class 3 felony. Furthermore, if the violation results in the death of the child, it is Class 3 felony punishable by between 2 and 10 years in prison.

Driving Drunk with a Child Under 16

DUI laws also aim to prevent drunk driving when young children are in the vehicle. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(3) specifically provides enhanced penalties for drunk drivers with children under the age of 16 in the vehicle. Under the law, in addition to DUI penalties and consequences, a person who drives drunk with a child is further subject to 6 months of imprisonment and an additional fine of $1,000, as well as 25 days of community service.

Drunk driving with a child in the vehicle can bring serious charges with expensive and severe consequences. If you have been charged with violating Illinois DUI laws or criminal laws, you should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact an attorney at Goldman & Associates today for a confidential consultation.

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